Known for his cutting edge restaurants and bars throughout the world, Jody Pennette of cb5 Hospitality introduced his organic Chinese restaurant, WUJI, to both Westchester County, NY and Greenwich, CT this past year. This latest culinary epiphany from a talent who finds inspiration from his extensive travels across the globe, a passion he shares with his business partner Moodi Zahid, is a “fresher, cleaner incarnation of its original self,” explains Pennette. WUJI offers Chinese food enthusiasts a more modern and fresh approach to this often misrepresented cuisine, while embracing today’s sustainable food culture.
The design esthetic has long been a calling card of cb5 destinations. All WUJI locations share the same culinary platform, yet each restaurant’s ambiance and vibe is adapted to the location, both space and address wise. The Greenwich restaurant, the newest location, is Shanghai chic. Bright red Chinese lanterns hang from the vestibule’s ceiling. The space is filled with vintage Chinese fabrics, original artwork, and a massive dragon wall sculpture designed specifically for the space. A black lacquer bar is reminiscent of a high-gloss piano piece with an oversized opium bed mirror displayed between 400-pound Chinese Blue Willow urns.
WUJI’s Executive Chef Peter How, a Gold Medal recipient at the 2016 Taiwan World Chef Championship, uses only free-range chicken, pasture raised pork, grass fed beef, wild caught fish, cage-free chicken eggs, Chinatown noodles, and organic vegetables. The talent and the premise sound great. But what becomes of our beloved greasy wok fried dumplings and mystery red sauce laden ribs?
The answer is Chinese heritage pork spare ribs basted with a honey plum glaze. There’s no denying the wonderful, slightly gamey, juicy pork flavor in these meaty ribs laced with natural sweetness. Hand-formed, pan-fried dumplings are stuffed with Berkshire pork, cabbage, scallions, and ginger. Bao bao buns, slightly sweet, fluffy steamed buns are filled with natural grass feed beef, crispy onions, and wasabi mayonnaise. Organic lettuce cups come with a generous bowl of wok sautéed white shrimp with ginger, garlic, and cashews and the crackling calamari salad is piled high with frisée, tossed with spicy vinaigrette and topped with tender, fried calamari.
Entrées are slightly re-worked to adhere to WUJI’s eco-friendly and flavorful focus. Grass-fed tangerine beef is coated with a natural tangy citrus glaze. Again, the flavor of the meat is left to shine through, as tasted with the Cantonese crispy skin chicken with toasted garlic and shallots, perfectly carved, with the scrumptious crispy skin left on each and every piece of the juicy meat. Making the ordinary extraordinary, the fried rice has had new life breathed into it. The lobster fried rice is a meal unto itself, prepared with poached fresh lobster, crispy fried rice, egg crepe, ginger, cilantro and an added flavor and texture component of kim chee.
WUJI’s beverage program is just as vibrant and innovative as its cuisine. “Couture Cocktails” are handcrafted with organic natural juices and purees. The gratuitous Mai Tai has been reincarnated into The Authentic Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai made with light and dark rum, orange and lime juices, a hint of almond, and of course a fanciful garnish – a potent and pleasing start to a great night. In addition to WUJI’s popular White Pear Sangria, bar selections include select sakes, Pacific Rim beer, and a nicely curated wine list.
For Chinese food fans, the fact that someone has devised a way to indulge in this guilty pleasure, minus the guilt, is just pure genius in my book! To top it off, WUJI delivers!